The Great Macaroon Experiment

What if the cure for anxiety was making 70 macaroons in one afternoon?

It’s not, but wouldn’t it be great if it was?

I’d feel so relieved.

We were at my parents’ house for the day, I needed to stress-bake, and even though I’d never made macaroons before, I decided to compensate by making all the macaroons.

There are SO many recipes online that claim to be the “best macaroon recipe” or a “bakery-style macaroon recipe” or a “first place at the county fair recipe” and it stressed me out too much to choose just one—so I picked three recipes and made three batches to scientifically determine once and for all: what is the best macaroon recipe?

SOUND THE CANNON!

I started out with recipe Alpha, the one that got me by claiming, “This is the perfect recipe—for the BEST coconut macaroons! Bakery-style, egg-free, chewy and FULL of coconut!”

It has also been pinned on Pinterest 210,189 times, so someone is doing something right.

But is that something making macaroons? Time to find out.

img_9607-1.jpgRecipe Alpha does not require eggs, but calls for 5 and a 1/2 cups of coconut, just under a cup of flour and a whole can of sweetened condensed milk.

The dough came together really easily and I got almost 30 cookies out of it (5 and a 1/2 cups of coconut!). The recipe claimed that macaroons come out denser and more cookie-like without eggs, but they tasted pretty crispy to me. Still chewy, but not half as chewy as a cookie. It was a medium chewy.

Like Chewie’s son, Lumpy, from the Star Wars Holiday Special.

(I would insert a picture of Lumpy, but he is horrifying. Did you ever have a stuffed animal that got stuck behind a dryer? And then looked angry about it forever once you got them out?).

img_9606-e1564429642869.jpgI made a piping bag out of a Ziploc and melted some chocolate chips, and did a little decorating. But something gnawed at me. Could I get a chewier macaroon from a different recipe? One that called for eggs?

I mean, if eggs were the only changed variable, surely I could determine once and for if eggs are essential to a perfect macaroon, right? That’s how science works, according to my liberal arts degree.

So I did some digging around in my own Internet history (man, do I look up a lot of weird murders late at night) and found my second-favorite recipe, recipe Beta.

This is Ina Garten’s recipe, so obviously I was good hands. People at the Food Network vetted this, it has 387 glowing reviews on the website, and I like Ina Garten! She seems like a nice lady! She loves the gays!

So can a fellow gay please give Ina a message for me? Tell her this recipe needs more coconut! Even though it calls for a whole can of condensed milk AND 2 extra-large egg whites, there’s barely 2 cups of coconut. That’s a lot of wet and not a lot of dry!

I ended up panicking and putting another entire cup in the dough, but it was still so runny and wet that I couldn’t get the macaroons to hold their shape at all on the baking sheet. After a few minutes in the oven, they were running like they had a plane to catch.

IMG_9610 copy“What the hell, Ina?” I said out loud.

Obviously, I wasn’t going to throw those misshapen flunkies as my final gauntlet, so it was time for recipe Gamma (you thought I was going to say Omega, didn’t you? What’s up, fanfic! I SEE YOU), which claimed to be the winner of a first-place ribbon at the county fair.

Now, in my previous post, I’ve alluded to how seriously my family takes a good ribbon. A blue ribbon is a badge of honor and quality that can’t be topped.

According to the website, this recipe was also published in a magazine called Reminisce Extra in August of 1996.

What was I doing in August 1996? I was either deep into The Hunchback of Notre Dame soundtrack (the BELLS) which I had to listen to on a physical CD that was purchased in an actual store (gross), or going to see Matilda, but only after I checked the movie times in the newspaper because 1996 was a long effing time ago.

If this recipe survived the jump from magazines to the Internet, it must be good, right?

IMG_9613 copyThis recipe calls for 2 extra-large egg whites, like Ina’s recipe, but no condensed milk, so the dry to wet ratio was just about perfect—these definitely scooped out the best of the three recipes, and held their shape beautifully, even when I almost dropped the pan trying to take a picture.

My parents, my sister and A wandered into the kitchen just in time to see an explosion of macaroons.

My mom loves to organize, my sister and A love to scientifically evaluate, and my dad loves cookies.

It was time for a taste test.

Everything was very official, according to the format of those “Coke vs. Pepsi” ads that ran all the time in the ’90s. Everyone, including me, was served a small bite of each macaroon, labeled A, B, and C, and then submitted their rankings on a Post-It.

A, as always, took things about nine steps further than required by ranking the macaroons based on taste, appearance, and chewiness.

Meanwhile, my dad helpfully wrote “All chewy” on his Post-It.

The findings were these: A’s favorite was C—recipe Beta, Ina Garten’s recipe. Even though they were the worst in terms of appearance, she thought they were the sweetest and most like a cookie.

Everyone else ranked C last. Having both eggs and sweetened condensed milk made the macaroons more like regular cookies without enough coconut, making them too sweet and too chewy.

I’ll make the recipe again for A though—she had the brilliant suggestion of making them in muffin cups to keep their shape in the oven.

IMG_9629Even though my sister and I are polar opposites in almost every way, much to the consternation of both our parents and shared Netflix account, we ranked our macaroons exactly the same—with A, recipe Gamma, the blue ribbon winner, as our favorite. We agreed (gasp!) that the blue ribbons were not too chewy, not too crispy, with a strong flavor and smooth texture. Not adding condensed milk kept the sweetness down and the coconut flavor up.

“Wow, you must be related,” said A.

This is a big deal since when my sister talks about the two of us, she tends to to end each statement with, “. . . assuming we have the same parents.”

My parents were baffled to find that they’d ranked their macaroons exactly the same as well—with B in first place.

“Uh-oh, are you related?” I said.

“We just have old taste buds,” said my mom, with a sideways glare at my dad.

My parents  could not be more different in terms of taste buds. My dad loves ice cream and chocolate the way my mom loves Brussel sprouts and asparagus.

She can’t abide sweet, he can’t abide anything green.

If they ever ordered the same thing at a restaurant or one offered to share a dish with the other, I would call the cops.

One time, at Disney World, my mom asked my dad for a taste of his gelato, and he asked if she’d been abducted by aliens. He still mentions it every time we visit Epcot: “That’s the gelato cart where Mom asked for a bite of my gelato. I thought I was hallucinating.”

On the other hand, my mom has almost called 911 on the rare occasions that my dad has willingly eaten a vegetable.

And yet, by some miracle, they both preferred the bakery-style macaroons with no eggs. They liked that recipe Alpha was the driest of the three and thus had a crispier texture—and thought it had the most flavor.

“I could really taste the vanilla in that one,” said my mom.

“There was vanilla in this?” said my dad.

And so, the great macaroon experiment concluded. Naturally, I am looking ahead to my next baking frenzy—next time, it might involve sprinkles.

 

 

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